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Spring vegetables

By Rukhsara Osman

Bashonto or spring is here and with it comes the sprouting spring vegetables. Delicious as they are, they have their own nutritional values. Do we know what we are eating and how they enrich our diets? Most of the time for many of us, we are not aware.

Bamboo shoot bake
Bamboo shoot is a good source of dietary fibres and protein, zinc and vitamin B6. This is a recipe that my mother came up with. This is also the way I first tried bamboo shoot, it is absolutely divine!

4 bamboo shoots (Karul)
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
5 green chillies, chopped
½ cup lemon basil leaves (Saba Long), chopped
2 tsp lemon zest, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (you can use Kissan Cheese)
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp soya oil

Boil the bamboo shoots for 10-minutes. Transfer shoots to a chopping board. Slice the shoots into long strips. Heat the oil in a wok, pour in the following: ginger, garlic, green chillies, basil leaves, salt. Sauté stirring constantly for 2 minutes.

Pour this herb and spice combination into an ovenproof dish.

Add the bamboo shoots to the ovenproof dish and mix up to blend the shoots with the herb, spices and zest. Sprinkle with the cheese to cover the top evenly. Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated (190 degrees C) oven.

Banana flower poriyal
Banana flowers or banana blossom, similarly to bananas are an excellent source of potassium, plus vitamins A, C and E. The flowers contain saponin, which lowers bad cholesterol, boost our immunity against infection. They also have antioxidant activity and so can reduce our risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular aliments.

1 banana flower
2 tsp Sambar powder
A pinch of turmeric powder
1 tsp urad daal
½ tsp mustard
A pinch of Asafoetida powder
2 tsp oil
2 tbsp coconut gratings
Few curry leaves
1 tbsp salt

Remove the big skin (bract) and take out the florets found underneath. In the florets, you will find a string in the middle and a rubbery skin outside. Remove both from each floret. Then chop all the florets into tiny bits and put in water mixed with little butter milk. This will avoid discoloration of the florets.

Wash well and put the chopped florets in a vessel and add just enough water to cover them. Cook for two to three minutes or till the florets are soft. Remove from stove and drain the water. Cool it. When it is cold, take out a handful of cooked florets and squeeze out the excess water and keep aside.

To this, add sambar* powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well. Keep it for at least ten minutes. In a wok put the oil and add mustard seeds and when it pops up add the urad daal, asafoetida powder and fry till urad daal turns light brown. Add curry leaves and fry for a while. Add the cooked banana florets. Fry nicely till raw smell of the powders goes off. Add coconut gratings and mix well.

*Samdar power -- ingredients:
2½ tbsp coriander seeds
1¼ tbsp red gram daal
3/4 tbsp Bengal gram/channa daal
3/4 tbsp split black gram/urad daal
4-5 dried red chillies
1 tsp pepper corns
¼ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp methi
½ tsp cumin seeds/jeera
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp asafoetida/hing
5-7 fresh curry leaves

Heat a heavy bottomed vessel and roast the daals on low to medium heat for 4-5 minutes till the daals release their flavour and turn golden. Remove and keep aside.

Add methi seeds and roast for 3-4 minutes till they turn red. Remove and keep aside. Add coriander seeds and roast for 4-5 minutes till they turn dark brown and release their flavour. Remove and keep aside.

Add the mustard seeds and roast till they start to pop. Remove and keep aside. Add cumin seeds and pepper corns and roast for 2-3 minutes. Remove and keep aside. Finally roast the dry red chillis and curry leaves for a minute and remove. Cool all the ingredients completely.

Place the podi ingredients along with turmeric powder and asafoetida in a blender and grind to make a coarse powder as shown in the picture.

Store in an air-tight container.

Drumsticks or Sajna cashew curry
Sajna has been known for its medicinal properties since ancient times. The plant is extremely useful during pregnancy and lactation and regular intake of a tonic made from its leaves provides expectant mothers with necessary calcium, vitamins and iron. The leaves of the plant are used to curb digestive disorders and are regarded as one of the best known herbal treatment for diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery and jaundice.

For the paste (makes approx. 2 tbsp)
2 tsp coconut oil or any other refined oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
25 mm (1") piece ginger, roughly chopped
2 small green chillies, roughly chopped
2 whole dry Kashmir red chillies, broken into pieces
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander (dhania) seeds
5 to 6 cloves garlic
Other Ingredients:
1 Sajna, cut into 100 mm (4") pieces
½ cup broken cashew nuts (kaju)
½ cup thick coconut milk
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds

Method :
For the paste
Heat the oil in a wok, add all the ingredients and sauté on a medium flame for 2 to 3 minutes. Keep aside. When cool, blend in a mixer to a smooth paste, adding little water if required.

Boil a vesselful of water, add the drumstick pieces and cook on a medium flame till they turn soft. Drain and keep aside. Soak the cashew nuts in ¾ cup of water for half an hour and drain. Combine the cashew nuts and coconut milk in a deep pan and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or till the cashew nuts turn soft. Add the drumstick pieces, prepared paste and salt, mix well and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Keep aside.

For the tempering, heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, pour the tempering over the curry. Serve hot.

Raw jackfruit curry
Potassium contained in jackfruit has been found to be helpful in the lowering of blood pressure and thus reducing the risk of heart attack as well as stroke. The fruit's isoflavones, antioxidants, and phytonutrients mean that jackfruit has cancer-fighting properties. It is also known to help cure ulcers and indigestion.

½ raw jackfruit (young, small, tender)
1 onion
¼ tsp Tumeric
Salt as needed
3 tbsp coconut, grated
1 and ½ tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp jeera
2 red chilli
2 garlic
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad daal
1 sprig curry leaves

Before touching the raw jackfruit, spread 2-3 newspaper sheets, grease both your hands with generous sesame oil or use gloves. Grease the knife too with oil. This is because when we cut the veggie, it will leave a 'milk like' liquid, which is very sticky. And it leaves stains as well. So protect the floor, your dress and everything from it. Cut the jack fruit in half.

Then cut one of the half into big pieces and remove the thorny green skin part. Remove the centre stalk too (thick part) and chop into small pieces.

Keep ready, a bowl of water with buttermilk to immerse the chopped veggie. You can also use the drained water we washed the rice with. Boil water with salt and turmeric and cook the finely chopped veggie until soft. Will take roughly 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind the coconut, coriander seeds, pepper, jeera, red chilli, garlic in a mixer with a little bit of water, to a fine paste.

Drain the water of the jackfruit and keep aside. Heat the wok with oil and temper with the mustard seeds, urad daal and curry leaves. Add onions and fry till transparent. Mix the ground paste with the cooked raw jackfruit along with salt.

Add it to the korai and fry well. Keep in medium flame to ensure the curry gets roasted evenly and mix now and then. This may take some time. Say 15 minutes.


Leather and feather

By kaniska chakraborty

My friend's cousin invited him over for biryani. He asked “Leather or feather?”

Mutton or chicken was question. An average Bangali would love to have his mutton biryani with his chicken chaap. Most wedding feasts are slowly adopting this.

Gone are the days of luchi, begun bhaja, cholar dal, rui macher kalia , holud polao, mangsho, chatni papor, doi, mishti. It is usually baby naan, kali daal, biryani, chaap, salad, raita and ice cream.

I don't want to get into the theological discussion of which is better. Suffice to say, I have never been a great biryani fan, that too in Calcutta. I insist that you have not had biryani if you have not had kacchi biryani in Dhaka. Then we can micro argue between Fakhruddin and Star. But since my better half is a biryani fanatic, and eats biryani of all ilks, including Zeeshan, I decided to make biryani at home.

That for me is like Star Trek, the no man has gone before zone. Those who know me well know that more than six ingredients and I lose interest in cooking that dish. And biryani has a mile long ingredient list. Or so they tell me.

My approach was simple. Go for the packaged stuff.

Rice, biryani mix and ginger garlic paste. All came out of packets. Cubes of goat meat, bone in, got marinated overnight in couple of spoons of biryani mix, and couple of spoons of ginger garlic paste.

Rice got parboiled with plenty of salt and cardamom pods and drained. Eggs, an integral part of biryani in Calcutta, were hard-boiled. Potato, Nawab Wazid Ali Shah's gift to biryani, was halved and parboiled. Some saffron was soaked in warm milk. Meat was pressure cooked till half done.

Alternate layers of rice and meat, potato and egg were created with sprinkling of saffron milk and dollops of ghee. The vessel was then covered and sealed with plain flour dough and put on a low flame till the dough dried up. The result? A fragrant hit when I broke the dough seal.

Rich, spicy looking rice with hunks of meat peeked at me, as if to greet me and play a little hide and seek. Yellow halved potatoes were a fine toothsome counter point to the soft meat and the rice. The eggs to me completed the cycle along with the chicken that I made for the side.

Two questions were settled at one go. It is not chicken or egg. It is both together.

And it is not a question of leather or feather. Again, both together. And the ghee on the biryani was my wife gleefully accepting it as eminently edible. Then again, she'll eat any biryani.

Photo: Kaniska Chakraborty


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